The 34th annual Balikatan 2018 US-Philippine multilateral military exercise has commenced on the island of Luzon in the Philippines.

Balikatan, meaning ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ or ‘sharing the load together’, focuses on a wide range of missions such as mutual defence, counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Jointly hosted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US Pacific Command, the exercise has been designed to strengthen the partnership and commitment to the mutual defence treaty between the two nations.

Balikatan aims to improve regional military cooperation, interoperability, and the ability of the participating nations to respond effectively to disasters or humanitarian crises.

“Regional exercises are an opportunity to build our combined capabilities and share best practices across the full range of military operations.”

US Army units participating in the exercise include 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Sustainment Brigade, 330th Medical Brigade, 500th Military Intelligence Brigade, and 413th Contracting Support Brigade.

25th Infantry Division commander major general Ronald Clark said: “Regional exercises like Balikatan are an opportunity to build our combined capabilities and share best practices across the full range of military operations.

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“If asked to work together to meet real-world contingencies, the seeds of success will have been planted by routinely training together in venues like this.”

This year, the event will include a command post exercise, a humanitarian and disaster relief programme, and several other military training activities.

Balikatan 2018 will also see the participation of the Australian Defense Force (ADF) and the Japan Self-Defense Force.

Participating for the fifth time, the ADF has deployed approximately 60 personnel, a Royal Australian Air Force P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and an army contingent to be a part of the exercise.

More than 3,000 US military forces are participating in Balikatan.